From the Editor’s Keyboard

Agriculture and development in Sierra Leone

27 November 2018 at 23:28 | 3780 views

By Emperor Bailor Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief

Agriculture is arguably the largest economic sector in the country as nearly two- thirds of the population depends on it for livelihood and sustenance and it is a factor for almost hall of the country’s Gross Domestic Product ( GDP.

. Economic growth and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone will be sustained if the agricultural sector is development oriented with requisite tangibles in the lives of the people. Despite well designed agricultural programmes by successive governments of Republic of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) Sierra Leone is still crippling with poverty, agricultural standards and development realities. No crystal cut showcasing of significant impact of interventions in the country’s agricultural sector in a bid to foster national development.

Sierra Leone as a second Republic since 1996, lip service, cosmetic development and fire brigade development have been the projections for agriculture and development to equate international benchmarks.

In the 2002 general elections, his second leg in governance, Sierra Leone President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (late) under the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) promised that by 2007 no Sierra Leonean would go to bed hungry with his Food Sufficiency Drive, but that was unachieavable - instead the cost of living was getting higher.

In the 2012 general elections, his second state mandate Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma( former ) under the All People’s Congress (APC)also promised food sufficiency with the Agenda for Prosperity, but still unachieveable - instead citizens are still suffering from hunger and poverty.

In 2018 general elections, his first term of governance, President Brigadier Retired Julius Maada Bio, also promised food sufficiency with the New Direction Agenda, still citizens are skeptical about its achievement.

Ernest Bai Koroma administration attempted to transform peasant farming into commercial farming by introducing the Smallholder Commercialisation Programme, but much positive impact recorded by this beleaguered nation. Peasant or subsistent farming is still in existence in a large scale.

According to the content of the country’s Smallholder Commercialisation and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) is a five years project that seeks to promote agricultural productivity through improved access to markets, improved access to finance as welcome as development of inclusive smallholder farmer agri -business linkages in the targeted project areas of Sierra Leone to reduce extreme levels of poverty among the smallholder farmers and promote shared growth.
SCADeP, key values chains supported are rice, cocoa, palm oil and poultry. The projects will also fund and facilitate the rehabilitation of up to 500 kilometers of feeder roads in selected areas of the country with higher potentials in agricultural production, processing and marketing.

By the end of the project, it is expected that productivity on targeted commodities would have increased by 69 percent for rice, 46 percent for cocoa, 36 percent for palm oil and 100 percent for poultry.

Percent increase in quantity and value of commodity sales from producer organisations would have increased by 10 percent. And 50.000 smallholder farmers, of which 40 percent will be women and youth are the expected direct beneficiaties..

Sierra Leone is spending million of billions of United States dollars in rice importation and other food stuffs.

On Monday May 15, 2017, I was among a gallaxy of senior journalists in a day Media Orientation Workshop in Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown on the Smallholder Commercialisation and Agribusiness Development Project ( SCADeP) organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS).

In conclusion, there should be political goods will in collaboration with the private sector to properly improve the country’s agricultural sector for sustainable development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).